BPA taking proposals for 2017 R&D funding portfolio to partner on projects

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) could fund up to $3.5m of new research on projects in 2017 by partnering with companies or nonprofit organizations on projects to improve the operations of the bulk power grid in the Northwest, BPA said March 7.

BPA provided nearly $3.5m for research with partners on various projects in 2016, even though nearly $5m was available through the research and development (R&D) portfolio, a BPA spokesperson told TransmissionHub March 8.

BPA’s Technology Innovation Office is accepting proposals through March 31 for its 2017 R&D portfolio, where BPA teams up with outside entities to identify “technology roadmaps” and work together on various R&D projects, BPA said in a March 7 statement.

For fiscal year 2017, BPA is seeking proposals that advance transmission, demand response, power generation asset management and energy efficiency technologies.

BPA uses a two-phase selection process for the R&D portfolio, with applicants and any partners capable of providing 50% of a project’s cost. Concept papers are due March 31 through the BPA Exchange website, and those who qualify in the first phase will be invited to develop their proposals further for submission by May 2, BPA explained in the statement.

BPA said it will notify the winning project developers in July.

BPA said it updates its research portfolio annually and it currently includes 60 research projects in six main topic areas: transmission, hydropower, smart grid, energy efficiency, demand response and energy storage. Firms that have partnered with BPA include utilities, universities, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working groups at the Western Electricity Coordinating Council and others, BPA said.

Since 2005, BPA said its R&D efforts have delivered cost savings through operational enhancements such as building out the largest synchrophasor network in North America that improves visualization of grid operations and developing a helical connector shunt that allows utilities to more easily upgrade existing transmission lines.

The shunt provides an alternate path for electricity current to travel, which relieves stress on components and increases the amount of power a transmission line can carry, BPA said in a July 2015 summary of technology innovation efforts.

The helical connector shunt devices enable utilities to repair or upgrade transmission lines instead of replacing them with costly new lines, and it has produced nearly $30m in cost savings over the years, BPA said in the March 7 statement.

Following a technology summit held in January in Portland, Ore., BPA said that its Technology Innovation Office updates and reviews BPA’s research portfolio every year to ensure that BPA is sponsoring research most likely to benefit its transmission operations, the use of federal dams, BPA’s energy efficiency program, smart grid and distributed energy resources efforts. The summit had BPA executives and others that make up the Technology Confirmation and Innovation Council, along with guests from DOE, EPRI and utilities, review projects and their ability to result in benefits, BPA said in a March 4 statement.

The summit had presentations on 45 BPA-funded projects that covered topics such as demand response, dynamic transfers, energy storage, voltage stability, hydropower modeling, seismic mitigation, energy efficiency and smart grid efforts, BPA said.

“We evaluate each project and decide which ones BPA will continue to fund and those that will be pruned to make room for new research,” Terry Oliver, chief technology innovation officer at BPA, said in the March 4 statement.